Ellie and Christian Flanders moved back to the Vineyard in June to live in West Tisbury with Christian’s grandparents. And rounding out the Flanders family were Ellie and Christian’s two cats, Whipper and Genna, short for Genavieve, a beautiful black-and-white domestic shorthair that Ellie and her mom had adopted in 2011.
On June 15, Ellie and Christian decided to spend the night out, and Christian’s grandparents volunteered to take over cat duty. Ellie said that the grandparents were loving and doting, and loved looking after the cats. After feeding the cats breakfast on the morning of June 16, they let Genna go out into the yard.
“Genna is mainly an outdoor cat,” Ellie said, “she prefers being out and hates to be cooped up.” Prior to moving back to the Vineyard, Ellie and Christian lived in a rural setting in upstate New York, and while their house in West Tisbury was more residential, Genna was quite social and seemed to enjoy her new environment. But on this particular day, after finishing her breakfast, Genna went on what Ellie describes as “a walkabout.”
When Ellie and Christian returned home on the afternoon of the 16th, Genna had still not returned. They were not overly concerned, even though Genna had never gone AWOL before, but just as a precaution, they began calling around the neighborhood, and people said they’d keep an eye out for Genna. But with each passing day, they began getting more concerned. “We always thought Genna would eventually return,” Ellie said. They decided to get the word out on social media to see if anyone had spotted their wayward pet. They posted on Ellie’s Facebook page, on Islanders Talk, MV Lost and Found Pets, Lost Pets of Martha’s Vineyard, and PAWS of Martha’s Vineyard.
They also had posters printed up, and they placed them around town. “Tisbury Printer gave us a really good deal,” Ellie said. And in case Genna was turned in to an animal control officer, Ellie knew they would be contacted, because Genna had been implanted with a chip.
Several people reported sightings, and Ellie and Christian followed up on every lead, but they never were able to spot Genna themselves. Every morning they would scan the neighborhood, searching in larger and larger circles each day.
Then on August 7, 22 days after Genna had gone missing, it was Ellie and Christian’s second anniversary, and they decided to take the day off and spend it conducting a thorough search. As luck would have it, the day began with a friend of Ellie’s telling her that she was pretty sure she’d spotted Genna by Head of the Pond Road, near the Oak Bluffs water department. They were a little skeptical that Genna had traveled that far — it was more than five miles from where they lived — but they headed over to investigate just in case. They didn’t find Genna, but when they returned home, Ellie saw a post on Instagram showing a picture of Genna posted by a woman saying she had also spotted the cat over by Head of the Pond Road. Ellie and Christian immediately headed back, and pulled into the parking lot next to Upper Lagoon Pond. What they found was Genna, not deep in the woods, but rather, heading toward shore in a boat, “and looking like she owned the boat,” Ellie said.
Apparently two boys were fishing in the pond when they spotted a cat on shore looking, as they said, “a little freaked out.” When they pulled up next to the cat, she jumped into the boat.
The boys were heading back to meet their mother at the Head of the Pond parking lot where, coincidentally, Ellie and Christian happened to be.
It was an emotional reunion; Ellie and Christian cried, the boys cried, and even though cats don’t cry, Genna was glad to be back in the arms of her mom and dad. For having spent 23 days in the woods, Genna seemed to be in good shape. “She had lost a few pounds,” Ellie said, “and she had a little boo-boo on her toe, which is fine now. Finding Genna was the best anniversary present ever.”
Since her adventure, Genna has adapted well to being at home. “When she first got back,” Ellie said, “she’d get a little scared every time there was a noise in the bushes, but she’s happy and relaxed now.”
Ellie can only speculate about why Genna took off in the first place. She thinks that Genna may have just followed some people on the trails around their house, “She’s a real social butterfly,” Ellie said.
In an exclusive interview with The MV Times, over a bowl of milk at her West Tisbury home, Genna revealed the real reason she took off on her little sabbatical.
“Sometimes it just feels good to get away — to shake off the dust,” Genna the cat said, stifling an insouciant yawn. “And besides, how often does a cat get to go for a ride in a boat?”